Saturday, April 9, 2011

Noir



I woke up early and went down to the Corner Bakery for a cup of coffee. I sat at the window, next to a table of Russians. I couldn't understand a word they were saying.

I was watching the raindrops race each other down the window, the big ones gobbling up the little ones that got in their way, and thinking about Raymond Chandler and The Long Goodbye, a Chandler book I'd been reading the night before, when it hit me that The Long Goodbye is Chandler's most personal and autobiographical novel.

They say Chandler's agent was disappointed by The Long Goodbye. He thought the Phillip Marlowe character had gone soft. Personally, I think Marlowe comes across as more bitter and cynical than he is in Chandler's earlier work, and more political, more angry at the rich people who shaped the West Coast.

Some people say: When you dream, everything in the dream is you. I've never looked at novels and films that way, but maybe I should.

Chandler died in 1959. He developed pneumonia after a binge.

The chronology that accompanies The Library of America's Chandler (Stories and Early Novels), ends with: "1959 ... Returns alone to La Jolla where he intended to live. Drinks heavily, develops pneumonia, and is hospitalized on March 23. Dies in Scripps Clinic at 3:50 P.M. on March 26. Buried on March 30 at Mount Hope Cemetery in San Diego."

Robert Altman made a film version of The Long Goodbye in 1973. In a send-up of the detective genre, Altman cast Elliot Gould as a mumbling, bumbling Marlowe who talks to his cat.

The thing about noir in books and films is there is never enough rain for me.

8 comments:

Tom Manoff said...

You're back. Lovely, depressing post. Well, I feel the same. So is there such a thing as a "Noir Soul?"

Billy Glad said...

There must be.

Here is the passage made me think the book is autobiographical. Why I can't say.

"What sort of guy is he sober?"
She smiled. "Well, I'm rather prejudiced. I think he is a very nice guy indeed."
"And how is he drunk?"
"Horrible. Bright and hard and cruel. He thinks he is being witty when he is only being nasty."
"You left out violent."

Tom Manoff said...

I always thought I'd interview Lumet. Thought of you when he died last week. I wonder who's left that I'd better get to before the end. I thought about asking Sean Penn for an interview on the blacklist and acting. The worst he could do is say no. Are all the directors of that generation gone now ?

GirlfromtheBronx said...

That's a great picture Billy, and when you write I can smell the sidewalk. How do you do it?

Billy Glad said...

It's a funny thing, girl. I grew up reading Chandler, Mickey Spillane and Rex Stout. I still have all of Chandler's and Spillane's books, and I re-read them every five or six years, for comfort maybe. I think Spillane has influenced the graphic novel or comic book writers who create dark, violent superheros. He and Chandler certainly influenced me.

Billy Glad said...

Jesus, Tom. I think they may all be dead now. Sean Penn would be a good interview all right. He's in a class by himself. Clint Eastwood, too.

Tom Manoff said...

Name a movie from the last several years that stands up with something like a Dr. Zhivago, an epic that in my humble opinion dips occasionally into noir shadows as contrast.

But skip the noir aspect. Just name something you really can put at the same level.

Billy Glad said...

I think how well epics hold up has a lot to do with the subject matter and personal taste. I like Zhivago, but I don't watch it as often as I watch some other films. I suppose the others hold up better for me. I'm not a big fan of Lean's. And I actually prefer Lawrence of Arabia to Zhivago. Recently? I'd say Oliver Stone's Alexander and Ridley Scott's Body of Lies both hold up for me. Also Kingdom of Heaven, another Ridley Scott film. I like places where the desert goes down to the sea. I'm afraid I won't be going to any now.